The Coronavirus and Your Business: Understanding Liability and Responsibility

Are you the owner of an SME (Small Medium Enterprise)? If so, are you insured against the liability risks caused by the COVID-19 outbreak? And, what will the impact be on your business’s ability to remain afloat and liquid should a state-wide or nation-wide quarantine be enforced by the Federal government? 

As part of the answers to these questions, let’s first look at the Coronavirus and the way it is spreading around the world as a means to understanding what the likelihood is that the US federal government will be forced to shut down the USA as well.

COVID-19: A History And Timeline 

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was first discovered in Wuhuan, Hubei Province, China on 31 December 2019. It is part of the larger coronavirus family that was previously responsible for the SARS virus in 2002, MERS in 2012, and now COVID-19. 

All of these viruses are part of the zoonoses family of viruses in that they initially occurred in animals. They spread to humans via contact with contaminated saliva, feces, or meat. Once the virus had transferred to humans, it mutated and then spread rapidly by human to human connection.

In summary, this virus has spread incredibly rapidly around the world. To date, the global infection rate is almost 116 000 infected people in over 100 countries. It has made its presence felt on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. China closed off Hubei Province and quarantined hundreds of thousands of people living in the province. 

This tactic seems to be working because the number of active infections is dropping in China. However, it is now spreading through other Asian countries like South Korea, the Middle East like Iran, and Europe with Italy being the worst hit so far. The Italian Prime Minister has just placed the whole of Italy under quarantine.

The USA currently has 755 active infections with states of emergencies being declared in states like New York, California, and Washington. Additionally, statistics show that the number of infections doubles every 7.4 days. 

The Impact On Small Businesses 

The challenge with this virus is that no one knows what the future holds. Additionally, America is a country with very clear liberties as set out by the US Constitution. Thus, will the Federal Government be able to lock down the whole of the USA or even parts of it? Or, will the American people insist on their freedoms? 

And, as a Clearwater, FL business litigation attorney asks, will class-action lawsuits and personal injury claims be filed against small businesses because infections were passed between people shopping for goods in a small retail outlet, or even in shopping malls? What liability and responsibility will the SME owner have to assume?

Historically speaking, it is reasonable to assume that the American public will look for an organization, whether corporate USA or the Federal Government, to take responsibility for the rapid spread of this virus. And, unfortunately, the way the Trump Administration has handled the Coronavirus outbreak in the USA up until this point provides the raison d’etre for this assumption. 

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